And herbs, too. Basing my weekly offerings on our northern seasonal harvest means, yes, repeatedly using the same seasonal veg presented in as wide a variety as I can manage. See my blog’s Menu Archive of weekly Delivered Dish of the Week for a list of dishes cooked over past 2 yrs and those dishes coming up. I try hard to keep it interesting and not repeat within 3-4 months.
2 dishes x 10 weeks =30. Thirty. Different. Vegetarian. Utilitarian. Dishes. And not one pasta among them. (I don’t do pasta or couscous.)
1) By relying on many different spices & herbs versus using many ingredients, which is expensive. I include condiments in this spice category.
2) By relying on the 40-some kinds of whole grains and beans that I have ready access to here.
(Thank you large chain, co-op and ethnic grocery stores in our fair Twin Cities!)
After all, what’s the difference between Cajun dirty rice, Mexican arrozo, Spanish paella, Chinese fried rice, Indian biryani or pulao, Middle Eastern rice pilafs, and Southeast Asian nasi goreng? The spices. Otherwise, they’re all technically the same: gluten-free, dairy-free rice dishes.
So, along with dried herbs & spices, I stock my pantry/refrigerator with interesting, intense condiments from around the world. In particular, sauces, pastes and spice mixes that I can’t or don’t want to make the effort to replicate. These make it very easy to add much variety to your repertoire. (Think curry powder and meat rubs). I don’t use them on top of finished dish, like ketchup atop a plain hotdog. I use them to flavor sauces & marinades for grains, beans, vegetables and meats. More like cooking the hotdog in ketchup & relish.
Case in point, I have jerk seasoning mix. Therefore, a dish this week is Jamaican Jerk Beans & Rice. Counting those examples above, that’s 8 different, cheap rice dishes I can whip together with stuff in my pantry. That’s not even including meals with plain rice, which I do actually make now and then for Chinese/Japanese/Korean entrees.
Then, substitute different whole grains or noodles for rice. Add different kinds of beans and various vegetables — we’re still talking about just the one dish, not even the whole meal. We’re still talking cheap ingredients. We’re not even yet factoring in meats! Now, DO THE MATH.
You know you know this. I’m just reminding you. And, since you may be free to use dairy, meat & seafood, you can make an even greater variety than DDoW offers!
This week, make a trip to a co-op and get tiny bags of spices and herbs from the bulk aisle. This is much cheaper than buying bottles especially if you just want to test-drive a new one. Next, pick up 3 bottles of sauces/pastes. Besides your local big box, Trader Joe’s and Asian grocery shops are good places for inexpensive and interesting condiments and sauces. Pastes are concentrated and therefore are a better value.
In my pantry:
- bottled Dijon and grainy mustards
- tahini and peanut butter (yes, nut butters are a condiment)
- orange marmalade (also a condiment)
- bottled lemon and lime juice (must-haves)
- black molasses (great in marinades, sauces)
- mixed peppercorns
- mushroom, veggie, beef & chicken bouillon
- herb pastes /pestos (see recipe for Cilantro pistou)
- miso paste
- pureed ginger paste
- tomato paste
- Korean red pepper paste (sweeter than you’d think)
- Moroccan Chermoula paste (see recipe)
ground Indian curry and garam masala mixes
Chinese Black bean sauce
Chinese hoisin sauce
- teriyaki sauce
- Cajun spice mix
- Jamaican Jerk spice mix (bottled sauce also)Chinese black bean sauce
- Thai curry pastes (Mae-ploy brand is good-value and has more varieties, while Thai Kitchen brand’s 2 kinds are gluten-free.)
- mango chutney (a jam, really)
- Indian mint and cilantro ‘chutneys’ (those tangy green sauces served with samosas)
- peanut sauce (the one served with Vietnamese egg & spring rolls)
- sweet chilli sauce (ditto)
- Tabasco (red & green)
- Sriracha “Rooster” hot sauce
- Plus basics to make sauce or soup like veggie broth, chicken broth and coconut milk.
Now, GO FORTH and Multiply … your meals.
“I have my mother who is an Irish-Italian, and my father who is African, so I have the taste buds of an Italian and the spice of an African.” ~ musician Alicia Keys (explains why I like her)